Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Song of the Day: Joanna Newsom - Emily

In honor of her new triple (!) album coming out today, Joanna Newsom's "Emily" (off of her last album) is my song of the day. I think I first came to know about Joanna Newsom through Devendra Banhart's first album and the whole "freak folk" movement, which I find to be a ridiculous description of JN's music. Like Astral Weeks, her Ys album defies categorization - folk may be the most germane, but this isn't exactly Woody Guthrie or the Kingston Trio.

Some people might turn this off within about 10 seconds. Does she sound a bit like little orphan Annie at times? Yes. Does this song reference meteorites, midwifes and Pharisees? Yes. Is this really 12 minutes long? Yes. And finally, is that a harp? Yes. Really, a harp? Yes.

I'll admit I didn't "get" this at first, but frankly I now find this song to be amazing. The harp and the arrangements (the recorded version features banjo and jew's harp) sound fantastic, the lyrics paint vivid imagery ("And, Emily - I saw you last night by the river/I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water/Frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever/In a mud-cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky'd been breathing on a mirror"), and her voice, while an acquired taste, is amazingly flexible (I love the way she yelps through the last few minutes of the song). Oh, and she can play the shit out of that harp.

Unfortunately, none of her songs are available on Lala.com, so I'm posting a live video of it that is fantastic.

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